ID Theft has victimized more than 15 million people worldwide. Last year alone, there were more than a million new cases. 36% of FTC complaints are regarding ID Theft. Simply stated, it’s the fastest-growing crime in America. Here are my 10 quick and easy ways to limit your chances of becoming a victim of this financially-crippling crime:
1. Shred your important documents. Make sure you are using a cross-cut shredder, not a “spaghetti” shredder. Cross-cut shredders make it impossible for someone to put the pieces back together. What to shred? Any personal documents that may have account numbers, your social security number or credit card number. Also, those “Pre-Approved” credit card and mortgage offers…shred ‘em!
2. Want to cut back on the number of those “Pre-Approved” offers you get? Go to http://www.dmachoice.org/.
3. Don’t conduct personal business at work. If you become a victim, there is a good chance it’s from someone you know. Have you ever looked up your bank account information on the computer at work? How about making personal business calls at work? Save those calls for your home or if you have to make a personal business call at work, go into a completely private environment.
4. Do you still carry your social security card in your wallet? If you do, your chances of becoming victimized just went up exponentially. Keep it at home in a safe location.
5. Drop your mail off at the post office, not at work. Every office has a common area at the front where business mail goes. Occasionally you may drop some personal mail in that bin as well. When you do this, you are allowing virtually anyone from your office to grab your mail as they walk by. Instead, drop your mail off at a secure USPS mailbox.
6. Check your credit reports at least once per year. Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com/. From this website, you can access one truly free credit report per year from each of the three reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Note: FreeCreditReport.com isn’t free!
7. Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls or emails asking for personal information. If your bank is sending you an email asking you to update your personal information, it’s probably not coming from your bank.
8. When choosing passwords, choose wisely. Since ID thieves can typically be people that you know, make sure your passwords don’t include something predictable. Mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, wedding anniversaries are easy for others to figure out.
9. Look at your bank accounts and credit card records regularly. This may not cut your chances of becoming a victim but it may prevent it from spreading. The longer ID Theft goes undetected, the harder it may be to fix.
10. Be very cautious about using your credit card or ATM card. While you’ll never be able to completely eliminate use of a credit card, you can cut back on using it in restaurants and other places that take your credit card into another area for processing!